Artist's impression of the 2 July 2019 total solar eclipse

Total Solar Eclipse 2010 El Calafate Argentina

The eclipse track across the Pacific to South America. This Pacific Anticyclone and its cousin, the Atlantic Anticyclone, dictate much of the character of the weather along the shadow track.

The eclipse track across the Pacific to South America. This Pacific Anticyclone and its cousin, the Atlantic Anticyclone, dictate much of the character of the weather along the shadow track. Over land, the cloud is further moderated by the rugged terrain along and across the Andes Mountains that both enhances and subtracts from the cloudiness according to exposure to the prevailing winds.

Average July sea-level pattern with the eclipse track. The Pacific anticyclone brings large-scale atmospheric subsidence that warms and dries the air column aloft, creating a strong temperature inversion at about the m level along the Chilean coast. Below this marine inversion, the air is cooled and moistened by contact with the cold Humboldt Current that flows northward from the tip of South America to northern Peru.

Atmospheric mixing in the surface layer lifts the moist air upward until it becomes saturated, forming an extensive blanket of low stratocumulus clouds. This marine cloud has an on-again, off-again presence along the coast of central Chile Figure 6 , but when present, usually spreads inland a short distance, especially at night. The amount of this ocean cloudiness depends on the height of the inversion and the temperature of the underlying ocean or land surface, but in general, the cloud is thinner within about km of the coast than in mid-ocean Figure 3.

Ocean temperatures are relatively constant through the day, but temperatures over land rise and fall in the normal diurnal cycle. At night, land cools, the inversion reforms, and marine cloud may return inland if winds are right. The nighttime advance of marine cloudiness is limited by the terrain, which prevents the moisture from spreading more than a short distance onto land except into river valleys that penetrate the mountain barrier.

Average July cloud cover derived from satellite observations. Click on image for a larger view. Winter is a time of low-pressure storms that carry frontal systems with extensive cloud shields that intrude on the anticyclones, spreading high- and mid-level clouds across the eclipse track.

These frontal systems and their associated lows are the main source of the cloud in inland parts of central Chile and over much of Argentina. For the most part, the clouds are not heavy enough to generate precipitation over lower coastal areas of Chile, but on occasion — once every two to four years — a passing front will drop several tens of millimetres of rain with dramatic effect.

More significantly for eclipse travellers, even modest amounts of high-level cloud will reduce the amount of sunshine that reaches the ground, limiting the rise of surface temperatures and permitting marine cloud to persist through the day.

Moderate to strong onshore winds that push cloud onto land may also cause low cloud to persist through the day. Average July cloud amount along the central axis of the eclipse across South America.

The locations of communities along the track are indicated, but the places themselves are not usually on the central line. Topographic features are also noted. Inland, beyond the reach of the low-level marine stratus cloud, the rugged terrain is both a good cloud manufacturer and a cloud eater. As the prevailing westerly winds rise over the peaks, the air cools by expansion and condenses into clouds. Conversely, on the downwind side of the terrain heights, air descends into valleys, warming and drying by compression as it sinks.

The ups and downs of cloudiness caused by these alternating ascents and descents are prominent features of the cloudiness depicted in Graph 1 and in Figure 4. The Cuyo, tucked up against the Andes and still beneath the sub-tropical anticyclones, has an arid climate that offers the driest and sunniest locations from which to watch the eclipse Graph 1 though by no means cloud free.

In contrast to eclipse sites in Chile where precipitation reaches an annual maximum , July is one of the driest months of the year in the Cuyo. Even when the rest of Argentina is covered in a solid overcast of low cloud, there is often a narrow band of sunny weather tucked up against the eastern slopes of the Andes. Average July afternoon fractional cloudiness along the eclipse track over South America. Data are extracted from 14 years of observations from the Aqua satellite.

Click for a larger display. The Pampas becomes increasingly humid from west to east, with July rainfall rising from 16 mm at Cordoba to 66 mm at Buenos Aires. Cloudiness over the Cuyo and the Pampas arrives from several sources: The first of these brings relatively thin cloudiness at high levels over the Cuyo, but the other two can be disastrous for eclipse viewing and are the main reason why the cloud levels are so high toward the end of the eclipse path.

Satellite photos often reveal extensive sheets of solidly overcast low-level clouds across the Pampas that take days — sometimes more than a week to dry out. Though these are uncommon intrusions, eclipse travellers should be prepared for cold weather before setting out. Topographic features along the eclipse track over Chile. Click on the map for a larger version.

The presence of more than a half-dozen world-class observatories in the mountains near La Serena Figure 5 testifies to its excellent and largely cloud-free skies, but July is not a kind month for eclipse observers or astronomers. Observations from La Florida airport, about 7 km inland from the coast at La Serena, show that the city receives only about 53 percent of the maximum possible sunshine during the month Table 1.

Cloud cover mirrors the sunshine measurement with an average amount of 45 percent at In spite of these somewhat pessimistic statistics, a frequency graph of daily sunshine hours for the city Graph 2 shows a large number of clear or mostly clear days. Weather statistics for selected sites in Chile along the eclipse track. Cloud category data are for the time of the eclipse. Precipitation pcpn is measured in mm. A significant part of the cloud at La Serena comes from the marine stratus that pushes onshore, but satellite observations Figure 6 show that this low-level cloud typically evaporates around noon leaving the rest of the day under sunnier skies.

Graph 2 shows a large number of days with 4 or more hours of sunshine, and most of these hours are probably accumulated in the afternoons when the low cloud has dissipated. Frequency distribution of hours of sunshine at La Serena in July. La Serena has a daylength of about 10 hours in mid July. Satellite images also show that the marine cloudiness does not usually penetrate a large distance inland and so it is possible to move into a much sunnier climate by a small migration to the east.

Satellite images of cloud patterns along the eclipse track over Chile on eclipse day from to The left column shows the cloud cover at about UTC late morning ; the right column shows images from about 18 — 19 UTC mid afternoon. Note the overall cloudiness along the coast and the dissipation of low-level coastal cloud over land as the afternoon progresses.

La Serena is approximately in the centre of the image. While Graph 1 shows us the trend in cloud cover along the central axis of the shadow track, it says nothing about the cross-track variation in cloudiness, which is particularly variable in this part of Chile. In Graph 3, I show the satellite-measured cloud fraction in percent for selected locations within the zone of totality, but scattered across the track.

As can be seen from the value for La Silla Observatory, there is a strong trend to sunnier skies on the north side of the eclipse track beyond La Higuera. This trend does not extend into Argentina. Average July cloud amount in percent for various locations within the umbral zone in Chile and Argentina. Note the strong gradient of cloudiness over Chile, where La Silla, north of the central line, has considerably less cloud in the month than either La Higuera or La Serena.

NASA There are a number of agricultural meteorological sites that measure, among other parameters, the amount of solar radiation. This is not a particularly reliable comparative measure of the difference between stations, as sites in the Elqui Valley will see much less sunshine than stations on the coast because of shadowing by the terrain. Nevertheless, there is a small but telling increase in solar radiation from the coast to deep in the Elqui Valley.

Beyond Varillar, the insolation decreases toward the Argentine border, likely because to the much deeper valley along the route and the gradual increase in cloudiness with elevation. A view eastward down the Elqui Valley across the Puclaro Reservoir. The eclipsed Sun will hang above the hills on the right side of the scene. By comparison, at Punta de Choros, on the coast and just north of the central line, solar radiation is comparable to or slightly higher than stations in and around La Serena, but the difference is small and less than the amount of radiation measured inland up the Elqui Valley.

However, the dramatic decline in cloud amount at La Silla shows that the impact of the dry Atacama Desert to the north begins to be felt north of the central line and inland from the coast. Inland locations must be chosen carefully to ensure a view of the late afternoon Sun Figure 7. At Varillar itself, the terrain is probably too high to allow the eclipse to be viewed. Note the low-level cloud spilling over the distant hills, but dissipating in the downhill flow toward the community.

La Higuera is protected from the marine cloudiness by a range of metre hills that lie only a few kilometres from the coast. In Figure 8, taken in June during a TravelQuest scouting trip, we see the cloud spilling over the hills and then dissipating in the descent into the community. When the coast at La Serena is overcast, La Higuera may be free of cloud, though it would be unusual for marine cloud to persist to the late afternoon eclipse time in either location.

For those looking for a more grandiose view of the eclipse, along with a m altitude with more transparent skies, La Silla Observatory may prove to be irresistible, in spite of a second loss of eclipse duration.

Check it out in Google Earth streetview. The highway between the two countries crosses the pass only m north of the central line. Topographic features along the eclipse track over Argentina.

Click on the map for a larger display. The Andes Mountains form an impenetrable barrier to Pacific moisture except at the upper levels of the atmosphere. Fortunately, the Cuyo region is a long way from the Atlantic and moisture reaches the foothills from that direction only occasionally. This gives the Argentinian slopes of the Andes a small but especially favourable climate for eclipse observation. All the available evidence — satellite and ground-level measurements — points to a location up against the eastern slopes of the Andes as having the best chances of seeing the eclipse.

In particular, the small hamlets of Bella Vista and Iglesia north of Bella Vista lie on an open plain where satellite imagery promises the lowest average cloud amount anywhere along the track. Weather statistics for selected sites in Argentina along the eclipse track. Column headers are explained in Table 1. Though the climate is dry, terrain still has a modest effect on the cloud statistics as seen in the graph of satellite cloudiness.

Bella Vista along with Iglesias and Rodeo lies in a deep north-south tectonic valley sometimes called the Iglesias Valley with the m Andes Mountains to the west and the m Precordillera to the east. The valley is narrow — only about 40 km wide — with a climate and geography that is comparable to that in Death Valley, California, though without the dunes. Because it is protected by terrain on the east and west, it lies in a particularly effective rain shadow and so has one of the driest climates in Argentina.

It is also one of the sunniest regions in the country, making it a prime wine-growing area. Because they form at very cold temperatures, there is usually little moisture in the air and the high clouds are often semi-transparent. If not too thick, the high cloud would interfere with an eclipse but not entirely obscure it. From the slopes of the Andes to as far east as Merlo, the eclipse track crosses a region with a sunny disposition except for a modest increase in average cloud amount near Marayes, where the Sierra Pie de Palo has an influence.

Merlo lies on the western slopes of the Sierra de Cordoba, a prominent m mountain chain that acts as a barrier to moisture flowing inland from the Atlantic. From the Sierra to the coast near Buenos Aires, average cloud amount jumps by nearly 30 percent Graph 1. Though the eclipse comes in the winter season, temperatures are not particularly cold by North American and European experience.

Below-freezing temperatures can be expected at higher elevations, but a perusal of Table 2 reveals some curious features of the climate.

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